Laura SheehanLate October this semester we once again had a successful board meeting with External Advisory Board members from companies all across the country. This is always an exciting few days as we, the students, get to meet and connect in-person with talented, intelligent individuals within the field of marketing research, or better known as consumer insights. We started our days with a lunch for students to sit and meet with board members. This is often the first time that first year students get to meet their mentors and a time for second years to reconnect with theirs.

These conversations between students and mentors from the board are the most productive to guide us onto our path of switching careers or learning where to enhance our marketing research skills. Following the lunch, the board has a chance to meet and discuss topics that are affecting the A.C. Nielsen Center and consider creative solutions for improving the MBA experience. We then meet again as a whole group to discuss major topics such as the use of behavioral economics in consumer insights, led by Paul Metz from C&R Research. More and more we are seeing companies change from surveys and focus groups to using research that understands System 1 thinking. This is a concept that is best understood in the book, “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. Most of our decision making is done unconsciously using our emotions that accumulate memories from past experiences to help us go throughout our day. As we speak with leaders from many consumers packaged goods companies, we discuss the understanding that shoppers move throughout stores without putting much rational thought behind their purchases. This is why insights leaders are changing from surveys to neuroscience to give them answers of the positive and negative reactions people have to their products and shopping experiences.

Once we wrap up these conversations it’s onto speed networking! This is a quick moving event in which two students sit with two board members and every ten minutes the students get up and change tables. This event is another great chance for us to meet with people from all of the excellent companies on our board and listen to their stories from our board member’s careers. I’ve found this year that I enjoyed this experience even more after having done an internship in consumer insights since I now understood the industry from having a real experience. Everyone enjoys this time as it’s a great opportunity.

We then moved the evening to the Fluno Center where we shared drinks and had dinner together. This year we even had a board member who auctioned off a ticket to an upcoming football game. The money from the auction then went to support the Center.

The final day of the board meeting was met with an early morning breakfast and a few speakers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. First we heard from Justin Cruz, VP Strategic Data & Analytics for American Family Insurance. Then later we heard from Justin Sydnor, Associate Professor at the university. It was especially interesting to see the research Justin Sydnor spoke about how people generally only pay partial attention to the prices they pay. For example, many only notice the first digit on the far left. The implications for this research then goes to understanding how to price items in stores if we were to get rid of the penny. Do we round the price up or down?

Finally, the day wrapped up with a final lunch and wrap up conversations between students and board members. Many of us exchange business cards and keep in touch between the fall and the next board meeting in April 2017. This upcoming semester, we also have the A.C. Nielsen Summit to look forward to as hundreds of A.C. Nielsen Center alumni come back to campus to network and converse about the changes in the industry.


Speaker at a podium